For one week every September, the residents of Toronto are paralyzed with awe, any notion of rational thought gone with the proverbial wind, as The Centre of the Universe braces for an influx of Hollywood A-Listers, B-Listers and A-List hanger-on types during the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF, as it’s known, is a great attraction for the city, bringing in free-spending tourists and some mild cultural cachet to a city that still battles a wicked inferiority complex.
Not that said inferiority complex isn’t still warranted. Any illusions harbored anywhere that Toronto is a “world-class city” on par with New York, Paris or London are immediately shattered by the presence of throngs of starfuckers, stacked six-deep outside the city’s luxury hotels. Wide-eyed, open-mouthed, cameras (some of the mobile phone variety) in hand, waiting to catch a glimpse of somebody, anybody famous. Naturally, I just drove right past them and pulled up to the damn door.
The GT-R may not wear the most prestigious badge in the wuuurrrrrllddd, but the general public all knows what it is. Well, let’s be real. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 all know what it is. Our ride to the Ritz was plagued by bad timing at the stop lights, and every single halt brought an onslaught of catcalls from this demographic, with some combination of “sick” “ride” and “bro” used each time. The adoration of the Axe-washed masses was gratifying. The ride quality, not so much.
Toronto’s roads, perpetually pockmarked and pot holed, are the great undoing of the GT-R’s chassis. Even with the shocks set to “Comfort”, it rides like the back of a short bus, with the bumpstops seemingly made of limestone. “Damping” is a theoretical concept here, since the car seems to crash over every single imperfection in the road.
It took some time to get out of the downtown core and escape its busted roads, but once we were free, the GT-R’s mythical performance characteristics duly emerged, and revealed a resemblance to another Japanese legend; the Mitsubishi Evo MR. It makes sense, really. Both the Nissan and the Mitsu have turbocharged powerplants, twin-clutch transmissions and all-wheel drive. Both have their roots in much more pedestrian offerings — the Evo is a tarted up Lancer, while previous GT-Rs were tarted up Skyline family sedans and the current car shares some aspects of the Infiniti G37’s platform which are deliberately ignored by the majority of the Internet. And, of course, both offer superlative driving experiences.
They’re not that different either. In the Evo, you hit the paddle to execute a downshift, wait for the decidedly non-best-of-breed dual clutch gearbox to downshift, wait again for the turbo to spool, and soon you’re propelled down the road at speeds that endanger the lives of everyone in your vicinity. There is more turbo-and-intake wooshing and driveline whine than actual engine growling, but it seems appropriate for a car that is more digital than analog.
The GT-R is much bigger, and much faster, but the gearbox still feels a little slow and antiquated, and it doesn’t project it’s voice in the way a Z06 ‘Vette or a European exotic would. Did I mention it’s fast, planted and utterly foolproof to drive quickly? My initial drives in a GT-R were a little underwhelming, in that it felt like a point-and-shoot sports car that required zero finesse or skill. After many miles on the road and a few on a road course, I still feel that way, but boy is it fun to stomp the throttle and annihilate everything in sight. The Mitsubishi claws back some of the quantitative gap in the qualitative aspects; where the Evo has a steering system that can be adjusted in microns, the GT-R feels a little ponderous and numb. Porsche may need to look over their shoulder with regards to Nuburgring lap times, but even the EPAS in the 991 (wrongly despised by those who don’t know better) has the GT-R beat hands down.
From the anonymous crush of the Gardiner Expressway, it was a quick hop to the Ritz, where we pulled in to the driveway and were greeted by an onslaught of valets. They didn’t take us for anybody important (all the VIPs are being shuttled in black Audis, courtesy of the brand’s sponsorship agreement with TIFF), but they were excited to see the GT-R. It ended up being parked in a row with an all original Acura NSX, a C5 Corvette and a McLaren MP4-12C. Anyone looking for an example of model bloat should put these three in a row. My crappy iPhone camera couldn’t capture them all properly, but the GT-R is absolutely gargantuan next to the lithe aluminum Acura.
The crowds nestled behind the barricades weren’t as astute as the valets. As my co-driver and I prepared to exit the car, we saw rows and rows of cameras and camera phones at the ready, waiting for someone important to exit the GT-R. When they saw our hairless scalps emerge from the cockpit, there was a barely audible sigh as they realized we were merely a couple of shmucks looking to quaff a couple of overpriced Mojitos. Before we could process our 15 microseconds of public adoration, all cameraphones swung in unison to catch Kate Hudson popping out of the hotel’s front door. We headed inside to the bar. The crowd of nobodies seeking somebodies was thick enough that we were forced to stand next to a table and drink. The patron next to us was wearing a vulgar Breitling chronograph. He complained incessantly that we were casting shadows over him and his companion, who was a veritable R35 GT-R in proportion to Ms. Hudson’s slim R33. Will we return to the TIFF next year? Possibly not. Even when you’re driving the star of Japan’s A-list, celebrity is overrated.